After the madness of Christmas, 26 December is a time to pause and remember others, says the Rt Rev Susan Brown.
And breathe. That’s it over for another year.
The presents are opened. The leftover vegetables are in the soup pot. The internet has been searched to find suggestions of what to do with all the ‘bits’ of roast turkey that are left. The children are less excitable than they were yesterday and have called a brief ceasefire. The shops are open again to get the batteries you forgot to buy. Today there is no pressure to provide a big meal so everyone can relax.
Only 364 days to go ‘til we do it all again!
Boxing Day is pretty much a British invention and in my humble opinion, it’s one that it is worth preserving. There are all sorts of theories about what exactly the ‘Boxing’ refers to, but I can say with absolute certainty that it has nothing to do with gloves and two people in a ring!
Most people tie it in with gifts given to tradesmen at Christmas which then merged into the staff in big houses being given boxes of goodies to take home to their family. Either way, Boxing Day is about looking outwards after a Christmas Day in which most people tend to focus inwards on their own families and loved ones. Boxing Day offers a balance to Christmas.
A balance which is much needed not just in December but every day of the year.
At a time when people are more aware than perhaps we have ever been, of what is happening down the street, across the town and in cities not only across our own nation, but across the world, we are in danger of knowing more but caring less.
Partly that is because news reports tend to major on the bad and the sad things that are happening around the world to such an extent that we can find ourselves almost becoming desensitised to the heart-wrenching stories we hear because of the sheer volume of them.
To respond to them all would mean literally, carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders – which is so hard if not impossible to do and maintain any degree of sanity. But to ignore all those difficult situations, plights and issues altogether and concern ourselves only with the things that directly affect us, is to cease to be human. At least, in my book!
I suppose what I am saying is that we each need to pick, not our fights, but our causes. Having celebrated the blessings of having people to share Christmas with. Having had food to put on the table and a roof over our head. Having the wherewithal to buy others a present and receiving one or two, means we are very fortunate. You can be sure there are others in the immediate vicinity around us who have not been so lucky. All of us have neighbours who will not have been able to afford to eat a big, slap up Christmas meal: who cannot afford the electricity bill that Christmas lights would bump up. There are, on our streets, people who long for a dry place to sleep. There are children who will be going back to school who cannot say what Santa brought them because for them, there was no Santa.
This is in 21st Century Scotland.
In the world beyond, the needs are even greater with warring killing thousands and making so many more homeless and destitute. There are people of all ages, colours and creeds, picked on and used and abused in every corner of the world. There are regimes that are less than kind to the poorest and most vulnerable among their own people. Then there is the way we treat the world itself. I could go on, but I suspect your eye would wander from this column because it is all too much.
And it is all too much.
But we need to say and do something about at least some of these things since to stand by and do nothing, makes us complicit in the suffering others have to endure.
I know it is not easy to care. I know it can be physically and mentally draining to bother about the needs and the issues that make life miserable for so many – but life is about helping each other. It is about carrying each other. It is about recognising that “there but for the grace of God…” Or to put it in a slightly more mercenary way, it’s realising that if the boot was on the other foot we would want and expect others to come to our rescue.
Boxing Day, when all the pressure is off, is a good time to sit down and think about what is important to you and to acknowledge that these same things are probably just as important to every other person on the planet.
What is it you are most grateful for in life? Who is it that matters most to you? What is it that you cannot live without?
Please remember to give thanks for everyone and everything that adds to the richness of life’s experience. Please enjoy the good times and relish the memories you have as well as the people around you.
But please too, look outwards and see what you can do to ensure that even just one other might find their life enriched in the way that yours has been.
You can’t, I know, put such things in a box and hand it out. To do that though, would be even more precious than any other gift you could give.
Be a blessing even as you are blessed.
Rt Rev Susan Brown, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland